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The Verkhovna Rada held a no-confidence vote on 16th February, and much to the surprise of many, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk defended his seat and remained in power. The no-confidence vote was a political show that revealed two critical trends: oligarchs are still in control of Ukraine, and Poroshenko is leading the charge.
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While low oil prices account for much of Russia’s financial decline, Western sanctions have certainly left its mark on the Russian economy. The result of sanctions has led to a game of cat-and-mouse between the US and Russian oligarchs eager to protect their commercial interests.
Stemming from the current sanctions regime, and facilitated by previous trends of wealth transfer between family members in Russia, oligarch assets are being moved to the next generation. The current business elite however, remain – in many ways - slaves to the socio-political system that has been established since Putin took power.
While last month's economic news in Russia were dominated by plummeting oil prices and the government’s decision to cut budget expenditures by 10%, in February all eyes are on what Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called the upcoming “big privatisation” of state corporations.
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When Nazarbayev was re-elected last April, many assumed the President would select a successor whom he would groom to take his place. Indeed, succession remains pertinent; however, before a successor becomes obvious, the next year will witness manoeuvrings between the elite as they pursue political protections and commercial assurances.
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If 2015 was the year the West placed high hopes in Ukraine, then 2016 may very well be the year of disillusionment. Although government officials and international donors can point to the myriad of achievements Kyiv has reached over the past year, what is fundamentally lacking is the political will that would turn top-level reforms into sustainable, measurable results.
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In many ways, Russia’s 2016 outlook will be a continuation of the previous year. With the price of oil hovering around $40 p/bbl (Russia needs $110 p/bbl to sustain its budget) and no end of economic sanctions in sight, the Kremlin’s objective will focus on cushioning the effects of its faltering economy and in turn, any challenge to its political rule.
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